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‘Hard Knocks’ ditches usual criteria by picking Colts for in-season debut

In a surprise announcement towards the beginning of the 2021 season, the NFL revealed that the Indianapolis Colts would be the subject of the first in-season installment of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series.

Since its debut in August of 2021, “Hard Knocks” has allowed NFL Films and HBO the chance to give fans an inside look at the behind-the-scenes action during a team’s training camp and preseason.

Through the show’s first 16 seasons, 13 different teams were covered. The Dallas Cowboys were featured a record three times, while the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams were each featured twice.

>>PREVIOUS: ‘Hard Knocks: The Dallas Cowboys’ season finale recap/review: ‘Bottom line activity’

Generally, specific requirements are in play when it comes to selecting the franchise that will be featured on “Hard Knocks.”

The criteria has three simple prerequisites:

  • No teams who were in the playoffs in the last two seasons
  • No teams with a first-year head coach
  • No teams which have been featured on “Hard Knocks” in the last 10 years

In years past, the only way a team outside of those rules could be featured was if they actually volunteered.

So, when the announcement was made that the Colts would be at the forefront of the show’s midseason debut starting on November 17, fans of the series were rightfully surprised.

The Colts made it to the postseason in 2020, losing to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round. So, that eliminated them from the first piece of the criteria.

Frank Reich has been the team’s head coach since 2018, eliminating the franchise from the second rule regarding first-year head coaches.

>>PREVIOUS: ‘Hard Knocks’: Each eligible NFL team for HBO’s 2021 season

But, the team has never been featured on “Hard Knocks,” which likely served as the driving force behind the decision.

Given the fact that the Colts made a big splash in the offseason by trading for former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, it wouldn’t be surprising for the team to have high hopes for the 2021 season.

Reuniting Wentz with a head coach who was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles’ run to the Super Bowl during the 2017 season heightened expectations in Indianapolis, especially after the team’s performance with a 38-year-old Philip Rivers under center in 2020.

Combine that with how wide open the AFC South is towards the beginning of the year, and it seems like a perfect storm for the Colts in 2021.

So, if the usual criteria was still in place, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that the Colts volunteered to have cameras following their journey during a highly-anticipated season in their franchise’s history.

>>RELATED: Every NFL team’s schedule for the 2021 season

At the same time, the “Hard Knocks” crew might have negotiated for more flexibility as it relates to selecting a featured team, even after the criteria gave NFL Films and HBO the opportunity to follow a top-tier Cowboys roster in 2021.

Regardless of how it happened, the Colts will make history as the focus of the league’s first midseason edition of “Hard Knocks,” and it’ll be fascinating to get more of an in-depth look throughout the NFL’s first 17-game regular season.

How do you feel about the Colts being selected for the first in-season edition of “Hard Knocks” on HBO? Let us know by following @SOTSports on Twitter or by liking our Facebook page!

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